Man's Need for Nurturing"
and Barry Vissell
Thomas and Ellen sat on
the couch in our office asking for help with
their sexual relationship. Thomas need for sex seemed
far greater than Ellens, who many times
felt so pressured she often gave in just to please
Thomas. Because of this, their times of love- making often lacked the depth and richness they
both wanted. Ellen was puzzled, because she described Thomas as a caring and sensitive
lover. They both figured she simply had a decreased libido.
While they were talking, I couldnt help but
notice their body language. Thomas
consistently leaned toward Ellen, while Ellen
consistently leaned back away from Thomas. It was like he was pursuing her, and she was
trying to get away. I pointed this out to them. Ellen blurted out how painful it was to feel
pressured, even in a gentle and loving way. Although she loved Thomas very much, she often
did not feel completely safe and relaxed being with him. It was as if he was wanting
something from her she just couldnt quite
give. They were both frustrated.
It was clear to me that Thomas was needing and
wanting nurturing. The big question, however, was what kind of
nurturing. I asked him how
often he asked Ellen to hold him the way a loving mother would hold a child. He looked
confused, and then emphasized his role in their growing family as the
provider, the strong one who held
everything together. In other words, his answer was never.
I directed Thomas to lie on the couch with his
head in Ellens lap, and to give permission
to the little boy part of him to receive the
nurturing he needed. After some initial
resistance, he eventually had a breakthrough. Tears flowed as he
realized how much he needed to be held and comforted as a child, rather than
as a man. Finally he spoke, All this time I thought I was needing sex. I was really needing
to be held as a child and just comforted.
Ellen, meanwhile, was elated. She now understood
Thomas deeper need for nurturing, and why she so often pulled back from his wanting
sex. She felt enormously relieved that her sexual drive was not the problem, but that she
was needed as a nurturer, not a sexual partner.
Thomas and Ellen learned that this non- sexual
nurturing was a vital practice for their relationship healing journey. They also learned
that enough non-sexual nurturing would
allow their love-making to attain new heights of
love and fulfillment.
Here are some other important guidelines for
1. Keep a clear boundary between non- sexual
nurturing and sexual activity. Non-sexual nurturing involves the child
part of you. Sexual energy (even subtle) at these times can be confusing. Keep them separate.
2. Allow room for verbal communication during the
holding. During your time of being held, verbalize your needs as a child. If you are the
one holding, speak gentle words of comfort, reassurance, and acceptance.
3. Make sure you both receive enough holding as a
child. If only one of you is asking for nurturing, your relationship will become
4. Finally, remember that you also need the
nurturing of friends, especially of the same sex. This is often especially difficult for men, but I
have often experienced in the mens workshops I lead that men need a kind of
comforting that can only come from other men. This particular need can not be satisfied by a
Information about the Vissels' upcoming retreats,
books and toll free Phone numbers may be read at the end of the article 'What's in a
Name' also in this issue.